The Hoop Obsession Annual G-League Report.

By Bobby Gerould - January 3, 2020. ...With winter, we begin delving into the NBA G-League. We traveled to Las Vegas for the G-League Winter Showcase where the NBA's feeder league was offering a $100,000 first prize to the winning team. The typical annual G-League salary is $35,000, so the chance for a player to get a share of 100K had athletes taking the Showcase a bit more seriously. The G-League's best ballers are almost all connected to an NBA team through two-way contracts. But as always, if you mine deep enough you can unearth some treasures. Mostly, we are talking about guys who can fit a role on a NBA team. They may not even be in the rotation in the BIG show, but with extra work and new opportunities, some may achieve the status reserved for players who play meaningful NBA minutes.

A few years back, in Reno, at the D-League Showcase (the G-League was formerly known as the D-League), we saw a young Rudy Gobert swatting shots at will. In Santa Cruz (where the Showcase was held in 2015 and 2016) we witnessed Clint Capela dominating with his ability to run the floor and finish. Christian Wood stood out at the 2017-18 Showcase, and David Nwaba was a revelation the year before that.

Just three years ago the G-League had 22 teams. Now, 28 teams are directly connected to a NBA franchise. They were all in Las Vegas participating. We watched more hoop than most could stand during the four-day Las Vegas event. The layout at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center allows for two games to be playing simultaneously on the two courts that are separated by a walkway, a make-shift "locker-room", and curtains.

Following the Showcase, we do a statistical audit of the G-League with deep dives into such proprietary areas as efficiency per-minute and "defensive rating differential". We strongly believe that it takes both the eye-test and being "data-informed" to make consistently positive personnel choices.

Our conclusion is that the talent pool in the G-League is legitimate. There is no question that there are players in the G-League that are better than some NBA players who are getting by because of teams fearing a bad PR look by cutting loose someone they drafted too high or paid too much.

So who stood out in our overall analysis this time around? Glad you are curious. We REALLY value defense. If a prospect can't be a "plus defender" they better be other-worldly on offense. We came up with 12 players we think are the most ready to be considered for permanent NBA placement. The truth is, we could have gone much deeper than 12.

Devontae Cacok - South Bay (Los Angeles Lakers). In an era of small ball, Cacok fits nicely as a FIVE although he stands just 6'8". At 240 lbs., Cacok flies around the court with superior ability to "quick jump". He is accurate near the basket. He is averaging 18.6 points (on 66.8% FG) and 12.3 rebounds as an undrafted rookie. His defensive rating is 8.1 points per 100 possessions better than the South Bay Lakers team average. Cacok is on a two-way contract.


Juwan Morgan - Salt Lake City (Utah Jazz). Morgan is one player we believe would be an upgrade at the THREE spot for many NBA teams. Unfortunately for others, the Jazz recognized this quickly and they moved Morgan up to the "big show". Morgan was averaging 17 points (69.8% FG) and 8.3 rebounds per game and his Salt Lake City Stars G-League team was on a 13 game winning streak. Morgan made 11 of his 20 three-point attempts this season in the G-League. He also had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio.

Gary Payton II - South Bay (Lakers). GP II was "shut down" by the second day of the G-League Showcase. The Washington Wizards had seen enough. Payton was signed by the Wiz and he is presently playing nearly 25 minutes per game for them. Payton has ridiculously quick reactions. He is a difference maker on defense. The South Bay Lakers were 10.7 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Payton on the floor. We wish he was more of a communicator as a point guard but that is nit-picking. Payton has the NBA athleticism, and skill to play in the NBA.

Tacko Fall - Maine (Boston Celtics). While it seems doubtful to us that Brad Stevens, the Head Coach of the Boston Celtics, will be playing with a traditional Center any time soon, we do believe that Tacko Fall could be more than just a feel-good story in the NBA. Fall stands 7'5", and weighs in at 311 lbs. Fall is efficient and he changes so many shots by the opposition that his DEFRTG is likely always going to be impressive. This season, the Maine Red Claws are a full TEN points better on defense (per 100) with Tacko in the game. Tacko, a fan favorite, is averaging 14.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game for Maine.


Christ Koumadje - Delaware. Just like Tacko Fall, Koumadje is a HUGE man (7'3", 269 lbs.) that we think would find a way to be both efficient on offense, and effective on defense in the NBA. Koumadje is shooting 63% FG, but he has the touch at the free throw line to hit 87.5%. You don't see BIGs with his kind of touch every day.

Ray Spalding - Rio Grande Valley. Spalding is on the verge of becoming dependable enough from beyond the three-point line. He has made 9 of 27 this season (33%). He is averaging 15.8 points and 8.4 rebounds. He is already a good defender.


Naz Reid - Iowa. ...We ranked Reid 48th on our 2019 NBA Draft board. The 20 year-old wound up going undrafted. However, the Minnesota Timberwolves signed him to a four-year contract, willing to let him marinate in the G-League. Reid is indeed putting up tasty numbers for the Iowa Wolves. Reid is averaging 18.4 points and 9.9 rebounds. He recently was called up and helped the Minnesota T-Wolves to two NBA wins, scoring 13 and 11 respectively in those games.

Dedric Lawson - Austin. We ranked Lawson 38th on our 2019 NBA Draft board. He simply knows how to play. He doesn't have special athletic gifts from a running and jumping standpoint but his skill level is high enough. Lawson averages 13.6 points, and 8.1 rebounds. He is shooting 37.9% from beyond the arc. He is an 80% free throw shooter, and he boasts a 1.53-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Jon Konchar - Memphis. Another undrafted player that we think has NBA chops. He is very unique. He has great size for a point guard at 6'5". He is a plus defender, and he helps as a rebounder. Konchar is averaging 12.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. His assist-to-turnover ratio is a stout 2.64-to-1. Konchar is right on the bubble as a perimeter shooter (33.3% 3-pt. FG). If he can improve in that area and become more of a threat to score, Konchar will be too valuable to simply be a G-League guy.

Josh Jackson - Memphis. Jackson's story is well documented. He was a lottery pick by the Phoenix Suns (fourth overall in 2017) and he has athletic gifts that others dream of. After two seasons in the NBA, the Suns traded Jackson to Memphis. The Grizzlies started Jackson in the G-League this season. The good news is that Jackson is playing well in the G-League, something he could not do with any consistency in the NBA. Jackson is averaging 20.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, and over four assists per game. He is still the same "plus defender" that we believe has the potential to be elite on the wing. (Marc Spears did an excellent piece on Jackson recently. You can read it here.)

Dom Pointer - Canton. In our estimation, the best OVERALL shooting guard (someone who can actually guard NBA two's and be efficient) in the G-League is Dom Pointer. The Canton Charge is 8.9 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Pointer in the game! That is an incredible number for a wing. Dom has improved his deep shooting (now 35% from 3-pt.). The unpredictability of his offensive game has toned down considerably now that he is 27 years old. He has a 1.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. We strongly believe he is being criminally underrated, playing just 26 minutes per game in Canton.


Jaylen Adams - Wisconsin. Adams is averaging 20.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.9 assists. Adams is only 6'0", but he is a thick 225 lbs. which gives him a chance against TWO's. Adams can really shoot it. He is making 41.6% of his three-balls. The 23 year old from St. Bonaventure was undrafted in 2018.

The Salt Lake City Stars won the loot!

Position seekers ...As is usually the case, there are players in the G-League that I think could play in the NBA but the coach would have to be creative because these players do not seem to have a defined position. Jemerrio Jones heads that list. Jones is an elite rebounder, and a good defender but his shot is beyond a "work in progress". Jones is only making half of his free throws, and he's 5 of 33 (15%) from three-point range. In essence, Jones is a 6'5" Center.

Yante Maten is struggling a bit too much from beyond the arc (31%) to be relied upon as a FOUR man but we like his game otherwise. Likewise, Zylan Cheatham is a player we have always admired. He is all over the court disrupting opponents with his high-energy, hustle game. Cheatham is a "plus defender" with NBA athletic ability. The issue with Cheatham? He is hitting just 31% of his three-balls, and has coughed up more turnovers than he has given out assists. At 6'5", Cheatham will have to raise that three-point percentage and make better decisions to be truly considered as an NBA wing.

Below is a table of our favorite five players at each position. This is based on how they are playing TODAY. This does not consider age or upside/potential.

1 2 3 4 5
Gary Payton II Sir Dominic Pointer Juwan Morgan Naz Reid Devontae Cacok
Jon Konchar Jaylen Adams Dedric Lawson Donta Hall Tacko Fall
Josh Magette PJ Dozier Josh Jackson Alen Smailagic Christ Koumadje
Xavier Munford DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell Jarrod Uthoff Mfiondu Kabengele John Egbunu
Brandon Goodwin Marial Shayok Luke Maye Jalen McDaniels Ray Spalding

Notes: It was a pleasure to sit courtside on the baseline for multiple G-League Winter Showcase games. Thank you to Anthony McClish and the Stockton Kings for the opportunity to do so. At such a vantage point you can hear the players communicate, or not. You can hear the interplay between officials and players, and perhaps most importantly you can see, up close, the interactions between players and coaches.

One player that serves as a coach on the floor is Josh Magette. Listening to him lead the Lakeland Magic was a treat. That guy will be an NBA coach someday. ...Tyler Cook of the Canton Charge had his two-way contract turned into a regular NBA deal. Cook has a long way to go, in our opinion, as a defender and as a decision maker but there is no question he has the moves of a NBA guy on offense. ...Max Strus of the Windy City Bulls went down with a knee injury at the Showcase. We watched him tough it out and walk off the court. Turns out he tore his ACL. ...Brooklyn waived two-way player Henry Ellenson. He was netting just 31% of his three-point shots. ...Chris Clemons had his two-way deal converted to a multi-year contract with the Houston Rockets. ...The G-League will expand into Mexico City for the 2020-2021 season. The Mexico City team appears to be independent of NBA franchises. ...The only two NBA teams that do not have a G-League team are Portland and Denver. ...Rayjon Tucker was scooped up by the Utah Jazz. He signed a multi-year contract with Utah after playing reasonably well, mostly as a scorer, for the Wisconsin Herd. ...Gabe Vincent of the Stockton Kings struck me as a player that has REALLY improved. Vincent plays an efficient offensive game as a knock-down shooter. ...PJ Dozier also had moments that showed his considerable upside. He still can get loose with the ball, an area he needs to tighten up.

To summarize our two plus weeks of focusing on the G-League, we think you will be pleasantly surprised if you watch a game. The overall level of play is better than it has ever been. There are plenty of guys capable of making jaw-dropping plays. We believe there will be many players signed to ten-day NBA contracts once that is allowed on January 6th.